Gardening is good therapy

Gardening is good therapy

October 26, 2021 0 By admin

Many of us garden just for the sheer joy of doing it. But did you know that all over the country the healing aspects of gardening are used as therapy or in addition to therapy?

While this may seem like a new concept, garden therapy has been around for decades. For example, the Garden Therapy program at Central State Hospital in Milledgeville and regional hospitals in Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Rome, Thomasville and Savannah has been helping people for over 40 years through gardening activities known as social and therapeutic horticulture.

So what exactly is social and therapeutic horticulture (or garden therapy)?

According to the article “Your Future Starts Here: Professionals Determine the Way Forward” from Growth Point (1999) volume 79, pages 4-5, horticultural therapy is the use of plants by a trained professional as a means through which certain clinically defined goals can be met. “… Therapeutic horticulture is the process by which individuals can develop well-being using plans and horticulture. This is achieved with active or passive involvement.”

Although the physical benefits of garden therapy have not yet been fully realized through research, the overall benefits are almost overwhelming. To begin with, gardening therapy programs involve an increase in self-esteem and self-confidence for all participants.

Social and therapeutic horticulture also develops social and work skills, literacy and numerical skills, a greater sense of general well-being and the opportunity for social interaction and the development of independence. In some cases it can also lead to employment or further training or education. Obviously different groups will get different results.

Groups recovering from serious illness or injury, those with physical disabilities, learning difficulties and mental health problems, the elderly, delinquents, and those abusing drugs or alcohol, can all benefit from the therapeutic aspects of gardening presented through programs specific to the therapy. In most cases, those most impacted are vulnerable or socially excluded individuals or groups, including the sick, the elderly and those kept in safe places, such as hospitals or prisons.

An important advantage of using social and therapeutic horticulture is that traditional forms of communication are not always necessary. This is especially important for stroke patients, traffic accident victims, those with cerebral palsy, aphasia, or other diseases or accidents that hinder verbal communication. Gardening activities easily lend themselves to people with communication disabilities. This in turn creates teamwork, self-esteem and self-confidence, while encouraging social interaction.

Another group that clearly benefits from social and therapeutic horticulture are those who abuse alcohol or substances and those in prison. Not only does teaching horticulture become a life skill for these individuals, it also develops a wide range of additional benefits.

Social and therapeutic horticulture offers these individuals the opportunity to participate in a meaningful, food-producing activity, as well as building skills related to responsibility, social skills and work ethics.

The same goes for underage offenders. Gardening therapy, as a professional horticulture curriculum, can be a tool for improving social bonding as well as developing better attitudes about personal success and a new awareness of personal preparation for work.

The mental benefits don’t end there. Increased decision-making skills and self-control are common themes reported by staff in safe psychiatric hospitals. Relationships of increased trust, self-esteem and hope are also common in this environment.

Prison staff also noted that gardening therapy improves inmates’ social interaction, as well as enhancing mutual understanding between project staff and inmates who shared outdoor working conditions.

Interestingly, studies in both hospitals and prisons consistently list improved participant relationships, community integration, life skills, and ownership as some of the real benefits to participants.

But in addition to creating a myriad of emotional and social benefits, the health benefits of being outdoors, breathing fresh air, and doing physical work cannot be overlooked. In most of the studies, participants noted that fresh air, physical fitness and weight control were the main benefits that could not be overlooked.

Although they cannot pinpoint a solid reason, studies have shown that humans have an innate attraction to nature. What we do know is that being outdoors creates feelings of appreciation, tranquility, spirituality and peace. So it would seem that just being in a garden is in itself regenerating. Active gardening only adds to those feelings.

With so many positive gardening benefits, isn’t it time you got out there and started taking care of your garden? The next time you kneel in fresh earth to weed or plant a new variety of vegetables or flowers, think about the tranquility you feel while outdoors in your garden. Let the act of gardening calm you down and revitalize you. Absorb the positive benefits of caring for your garden.

If you have someone in your life who could benefit from garden therapy, contact your local health unit to find out more about programs in your area. Not only will the pleasure of gardening help bond you together, it will also create numerous positive mental and physical benefits for both of you.

So garden today for your physical and mental health. You will enjoy the experience so much that you will immediately thank yourself.